Most of us think of sheep as farm animals. We think of herds grazing amongst the fields and hillsides. That they’re raised for wool or meat instills this, but can they make good pets? Sheep are smarter than we normally think they are. They’re also often docile and can easily be trained. Having a pet sheep isn’t always simple or accessible for everyone.
In this article, we’ll go over whether sheep make good pets and why you may want to think twice about getting a sheep as a pet. You’ll need to be aware of the pros and cons of keeping a sheep as a pet if you’re considering getting one in the future.
Common Issues With Sheep as Pets
Sheep are herd animals and that poses some complications with raising them as pets. Caring for sheep is more demanding than many animals like dogs and cats. Some important considerations before getting a pet sheep are:
- Be aware of the financial costs and expertise needed to give sheep the proper care.
- You will need a large amount of land so that the sheep have enough room to graze.
- Sheep don’t make good backyard pets and depending upon the zoning laws where you live, it may not even be allowed.
Sheep are Social and Gregarious Animals
It’s generally out of the question to just have one sheep as a pet. Sheep are herd animals and need to be with other sheep in order to have optimal well-being.
If you want to have sheep as pets, you will need to factor in the cost and time requirements of caring for several animals. At the very least you should have two sheep. Five or more is better since at that number they tend to start showing their natural flocking tendencies.
While sheep need to be with their own kind, their gentle natures can make them wonderful for humans to be around. A lamb that is raised on a bottle can bond especially well with a human. This is because they are encouraged to think of the human feeding them as a maternal figure.
The Pros and Cons of Keeping Sheep as Pets
Let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons of having sheep as pets.
- Sheep tend to be calm and affectionate (as long as you stick with female or neutered male sheep).
- You may be surprised to learn it’s easy to train sheep.
- If you have kids, sheep can make a wonderful family pet.
- Sheep can help the quality of your lawns. They produce excellent fertilizer.
- You will need to have more than one sheep since they are herd animals.
- If you have wooled sheep, you will have to shear them once a year. You will need to buy the equipment to do this.
- You will need extensive knowledge on how to properly feed and take care of your sheep.
- Sheep require a large amount of outdoor space so that they can graze and get the exercise they need.
You’ll also need to build fencing to contain the outside area where your sheep will graze. This is essential to keep your sheep safe from potential predators, and even from other animals like dogs. This can be incredibly expensive to put the necessary fencing in place.
There may be zoning regulations or other restrictions in your area that prohibit you from having livestock (like sheep) on your property. You will have to trim your sheep’s hooves (or pay for a professional to trim them) regularly. This task requires special equipment, so this is another expense.
There may be problems if you also have dogs. This is because all dogs (with the exception of dogs specifically bred to protect sheep) have a predatory instinct and they may alarm or even hurt your sheep. Even if a dog does not harass the sheep, its presence may still worry and stress the sheep, adversely affecting their health and well-being.
Choosing the Right Kind of Sheep is Key
While any breed of hornless sheep can be a pet, it’s essential to get female sheep (ewes) or neutered males (wethers). You should never have sheep with horns as a pet. Male sheep you keep as pets must be neutered, as intact ones will become aggressive, which poses a risk to you, your family, and your neighbors.
If you don’t want to have to deal with the task of shearing, a hair sheep breed is an excellent choice. Its coat is a combination of hair and wool and it sheds by itself every year. Hair sheep also deal with hot weather better than other kinds of sheep. Not only that, they have better resistance to internal parasites (worms), so you’ll save on medication costs.
Also keep in mind that crossbreed sheep tend to be healthier and stronger than purebreds. This better health is sometimes referred to as “hybrid vigor.” Crossbreed sheep tend to be more resistant to disease.
Take size into consideration when deciding what kind of sheep to get. The mature size of a sheep can vary from less than 100 pounds to heavier than 200 pounds depending on breed. You must keep the expected mature size of sheep in mind when deciding what kind of sheep to get.
I have a complete article about selecting the best breed of sheep for beginners which you might find useful.
Space Requirements for Sheep
You must make sure you have an adequate amount of outdoor space in which you will keep your sheep and let them graze. You may also need to have space to store hay for the winter months.
The space in which you keep your sheep must be contained or fenced in some way, to protect them from predators and other sources of danger. Box wire and woven wire are two of the most common materials used for fencing sheep. You will need to have enough space, usually at least one or two acres, for containing your sheep and making sure they are able to graze.
If you only have a few sheep, an acre will usually be enough. If you do not have pasture for your sheep, it is usually possible for to keep pet sheep in small enclosures or pens. You must always ensure that they have the proper nutrition and everything they need for their physical and psychological well-being.
Provide Enough Shelter
Your sheep must have shelter from different weather conditions. For example, they must have somewhere they can go to keep themselves safe and dry when it’s wet, cold or very hot, snowy, or windy outside.
Sheep shelter must be able to keep the sheep feed dry. The sheep must be able to access this shelter whenever they want and need to. Be aware that sheep often seek shelter when the weather is hot and humid. Ensure that the shelter is very dry inside. If there is moisture, diseases can quickly become an issue. You can purchase shelters for your sheep or make them yourself.